David Carr has a long article in the New York Times attributing the bankruptcy of the Tribune company to the takeover of an owner "with virtually no experience in the newspaper business."
From the article:
"They threw out what Tribune had stood for, quality journalism and a real brand integrity, and in just a year, pushed it down into mud and bankruptcy," said Ken Doctor, a newspaper analyst with Outsell Inc., a consulting firm.
This strikes me as faulty analysis, or at least as oversimplification. Plenty of owners with lots and lots of experience in the newspaper business have taken their companies through bankruptcy or at least lost lots of money and lots of market value over the same period. And even before Sam Zell took over, many of what became the Tribune papers had been led, from 1995 to 2000, by Mark Willes, who was elevated to the post of CEO of Times Mirror after a career in which he, too, had virtually no experience in the newspaper business.
Even the New York Times article itself seems to acknowledge that Tribune was on a downward path before Mr. Zell took over. "Mr. Zell's various approaches didn't slow the company's decline....the performance under new management continued to slide...The Chicago Tribune's circulation continues to slide."
Even before Mr. Zell took over, that "quality journalism" and "brand integrity" hadn't really led to much in the way of growth in the businesses, which were in decline.